Florida Cooperative Extension Service
UNIVERSI-TY OF FLORIDA
INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICUL-TURAL SCIENCES
November 1, 1989 Number SS-AGR-935
PERENNIAL PEANUT: AN ALTERNATIVE FORAGE
;;II OF GROWING IMPORTANCE
What is it?
The rhizoma (perennial) peanut (Arachis glabrata Benth.) is a primitive peanut that produces
very few seed in contrast to common eating peanut (Arachis hy~poaea L,.). It is a warm season/
tropical perennial legume native of South America. Its potential uses include hay and other
dehydrated products, pasture, creep grazing, silage, ornamental, conservation cover, and living
mulch. Perennial peanut is unique to Florida because there is no other warm season legume that
rivals its forage quality, persistence, and broad spectrum of uses.
Some have coined it "Florida's alfalfa" because it fits so closely the quality character-
istics of alfalfa as an animal feed. Crude protein of perennial peanut ranges from 13-18%,
depending on stemminess, with an amino acid composition very similar to alfalfa. Dry matter
digestibility (IV0MD) for alfalfa and perennial peanut is also quite similar, ranging from 55-
Being a perennial, it is long-lived, hence not requiring replanting once established.
Because it is long-lived, it develops a deep and extensive system of rhizomes and roots which
enable the plant to mine a large volume of soil for both moisture and nutrients. This enables
perennial peanut to survive dry periods and to grow on less than optimum fertile soil. It
appears to be well adapted to the drought, low fertility, well-drained, deep sands of Florida.
Being a legume, it requires no applied nitrogen because of its association with nitrogen fixing
rhizobium bacteria. It is thought that its association with mycorrhizal organisms makes
phosphorus available to the plant even in phosphorus impoverished soils. Thus, often there is
no need to apply phosphorus.
Perennial peanut was introduced into Florida in 1936 and to the present time no insect,
disease, or nematode pest causing significant economic loss has been identified. Weed control
is normally required following planting. A competitive-free growing zone promotes above and
below ground plant development which in turn shortens the time period to establishment. Weed
control is achieved through both mechanical (mowing) and chemical (herbicide) means. Other than
the use of herbicides during establishment and occasionally post-establishment, no other
pesticides are required to produce a well-managed crop of perennial peanut.
Perennial peanut is a relatively new crop to both farmers and researchers, so many of the
details in managing the crop are incomplete at present. For example, perennial peanut is
observed to do well on fertile soil and poorly on infertile soil. However, fertility work
conducted to date has not shown any significant response by the plant. Post-plant applications
of a fertilizer containing magnesium, potassium, and sulfur may provide a measure of insurance
unless the soils test adequate in these elements. An adjustment of soil pH over 6.0 has not been
confirmed to be beneficial. Area of origin of perennial peanut has a soil pH range of 4.0-5.0.
Florigraze, released in 1979, is the most widely distributed, commercially grown cultivar
today (approximately 2500 acres in Florida). Arbrook, the latest release, is well suited to dry
sites. Researchers at the University of Florida are continuing the search for better yielding,
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How can you get started?
Perennial peanut is increased or propagated vegetatively from rhizomes. Perennial peataut
rhizomes are a modified stem whiich concentrate in a 2 to 3 inch mat just below the soil surface.
These rhizomes can be removed from the soil mechanically~with a sprig harvester and planted as
Individual rhizome pieces or as various sized sod pieces lifted with a sod lifter or potato
The first step when planning to plant is to locate a source of well-managed perennial peanut
rhizomes to be dug. Your county extension agent or the Perennial Peanut Producers Association1
(PPPA) (a non-profit organization) can provide a current list of those who sell, dig, and plant
rhizomes. Since planting normally takes place during January/February, planning, field prepara-
tion, location of rhizome sources, and planting equipment or contacts with individuals who plant
should begin during the summer prior to winter planting.
Elimination of perennial grasses and broadleaved weeds prior to planting can reduce the cost
associated with control of these weeds post-plant and gives the newly emerging peanuts a
competitive- free advantage. Bottom plowing is suggested on heavy sod or compacted soils followed
by disk-harrowing and herbicide applications if needed. Land preparation should begin early
enough in late summer to allow for weed regrowth and subsequent elimination prior to frost.
Early preparation also allows ample time for decomposition of plowed organic matter and provides
time for accumulation of soil moisture and firming of the seedbed, which facilitates precise
planting of the rhizomes at a depth of 2 inches for sandy soils, up to 1 inch for clay.
Irrigation should be considered during establishment if the possibility exists.
Does it make monev7
Since its introduction, advances have been made in educating potential buyers of perennial
peanut products and this effort continues. In addition to making a good pasture forage,
perennial peanut makes excellent dry hay, silage, haylage/balage and has shown good pelleting
quality. All animals tested to date have done well on perennial peanut. These include horses,
cattle (both beef and dairy), sheep, goats, and rabbits. Perennial peanut meal, as 80% of the
ration for gestating sows, has given promising results. A survey of horse owners in the Ocala
area of Florida indicated that the average price paid for a 60-lb bale of alfalfa is $6.90 or
$230/ton (published in 1988). Considering that the present break-even price for a 60-1b bale
of perennial peanut hay is $2.90, and considering that perennial peanut is similar to alfalfa
in animal performance, digestion, and palatability, perennial peanut hay should command a price
similar to that of alfalfa, which makes perennial peanut a profitable crop to produce (see table
Potential net profit per acre for perennial peanut hay
at various yields and selling prices
Hay Potential Net Profit Per Acre
Yield Production Selling Price
tons/acre Cost/ton $100/ton $120/ton $150/ton $180/ton $230/ton
3 $97.86 $ 6.42 $ 66.42 $ 156.42 $ 246.42 $ 396.42
4 73.40 106.42 186.42 306.42 426.42 626.42
5 58.72 206.42 306.42 456.42 606.42 856.42
6 48.93 306.42 426.42 606.42 786.42 1086.42
E. C. French G. M. Prine
Extension Agronomist New Crops Agronomist
i Contact PPPA Secretary, Clay 01son, Taylor County Extension Office, P.O. Box 820, Perry, FL
32347. Telephone 904-584-4345.